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The good die young, it is said. It is also said that the really gifted artist who dies young gains a reputation that would have taken far longer had he lived.

There can be no question that Eric Dolphy, born in 1928, dead of complications associated with diabetes in 1964, was a good human being. Indeed, Charles Mingus, who was not without his cautions and suspicions about the motives of his fellow beings, called Eric "a saint".

In my own experience, Eric Dolphy greeted life as he greeted music, with an inquisitiveness, generosity, and enthusiasm that was as infectious as it was natural. But his was not an enthusiasm born of innocence or naiveté. Eric was alert, discriminating, and selective, but he evaluated without being judgmental, and always with modesty and grace.

However, Dolphy's reputation has somehow not been given quite the kind of posthumous rewards one would have expected. Part of the problem, I think, had to do with the comparisons that were made about his work -- comparisons to Ornette Coleman and to John Coltrane. It wasn't that the comparisons weren't welcome -- and Eric worked with both men in important contexts. It is just that they weren't always very well made.

Since this recording shows Eric in a number of settings, offers him such a range of challenges, and shows almost all the things he could do, all the approaches he knew to take to improvising, it gives opportunity for some discussion of the things he did. But let it be said first that, matters of technique aside, any musical phrase here on any of his several instruments will show you that Eric Dolphy was a man born to make and communicate music.

Martin Williams


HALF NOTE TRIPLETS              Dolphy
IRON MAN                        Dolphy
DENSITIES                       Schuller
NIGHT MUSIC                     Schuller
  BY THELONIOUS MONK            Schuller
ABSTRACTION                     Schuller
DONNA LEE                       Parker

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